Frugal Disaster Preparedness

Even before last weekend’s post my intuition suggested I should cancel most of my plans for the week. I made a trip to the store, bought lots of soup ingredients and oranges, and lined up low expectations. Maybe it was the dance, maybe it was taking the bus, but sometime in there I caught the flu. And then the temperatures dropped while my temperature rose. Let my frugal preparations begin! Including the ones that are counter-intuitive.

Having the flu is a great excuse for a writer. Any error can be blamed on the viruses that invaded my body. I wonder what the little buggers have to say.

Servings from the big batch of potato mushroom soup have taken care of either lunch or dinner. Meatballs I made and froze weeks ago have taken care of either dinner or lunch. Great variety, eh? And all of those eggs have been a great excuse to use lots of turmeric (and butter and cheese). The oranges have been welcome, as well as the zest from the skins, which has been added to my loose-leaf tea. For drugs, I have so many health-minded friends that I’ve mixed aspirin, Chinese herbs, and homeopathy pills. The best course of action has probably been inaction, or at least a lot less than usual; and plenty of fluids.

Counter-intuitively two hints made me crank the thermostat. Yes, keeping the heat low keeps the energy bills down; but, too low is bad for the pipes, and too low is bad for my recovery. My energy usage is up, a lot. There’s a heater in the utility room, heater tape on the south wall’s pipes, and the house is being kept at about 69 degrees. Yes, the bill is up; but the cost of a long recovery or replacing broken pipes is much higher. Cheaper is not always cheaper.

We’re encountering a lot of disasters: climatological, geological, economic, political, and social. Preppers are preparing for the worst, and each seems to find some specific fear as inspiration. The revelation comes when they reveal what they intend to save and defend. Many times it is based on some semblance of an eventual return to suburbia. Maybe so. Predicting the future, very difficult, eh?

If you try to prepare for every disaster, striking any time and any where, your house becomes a fortress and your car becomes a tank.

I’m more impressed with my frugal and resourceful friends. Whether they are wealthy or not, they are satisfied living a simple life. They probably already have warmer blankets, so a cold snap isn’t as calamitous. The pantry is probably full, most likely with shelf-stable foods; and keep in mind that some of the pre-refrigeration shelf-stable foods were beer, whiskey, wine, smoked salmon, hams, jerky, cheese, fruitcake, and anything that will still work well enough in a root cellar. Bicycling in bad weather isn’t as much of an issue. And books and friends are still the best entertainment available.

I live in a community that could be cut off by a tsunami or an earthquake, on an island that is within sight of three volcanoes, and on occasion we get winds from Pacific storms, cold air from Alaska, and atmospheric rivers of moisture from Hawaii. Imagine if they all hit at once. The counter-intuitive response comes from the prospect of economic, political, or social collapse. There are many active efforts to establish a self-sustaining community now, rather than when it is too late. And, if we go to all of that work, and we never need to employ it, we end up with a network of friends and less anxiety about what could go wrong.

Maybe this is all easier in Cascadia, a territory defined by culture and climate that spans from somewhere in Alaska to somewhere in northern California. Backpackers can survive for days with what they can carry on their back. Imagine how much easier that is in a house, or even in an outbuilding like a shed. Sailors and especially kayakers don’t carry their gear the same way, but the gear they have is stout and definitely waterproof. Bicyclists and walkers are hard to stop, and may not even need roads. Then there’s the localvore foodies who know where all of the local food is produced, probably know the farmers, and may not have to go farther than their yard.

Resourcefulness is more important than following someone else’s list, though the Red Cross, FEMA, and the Mountaineers lists are good places to start. Though, if you have the time, maybe playing a bit via hiking or sailing or bicycling can be a much more illuminating experience about what you need.

Deciding what you need is the basis of frugality. Does this thing have value to you or not? Maybe you don’t need an avalanche beacon or a life vest (though I’ve had a couple of scares). It is, however, amazingly educational finding out what life is like without a can opener, or a knife, or a flashlight, or a map. It is also fun finding out that, even though I forgot the fork and spoon, I could whittle chopsticks. (Whistling Chopsticks isn’t nearly as useful, except as good self-deprecating entertainment.) When your things are chosen because they are or will probably be useful you may be surprised at how little room they take up because the clutter is gone. I’ve hiked twelve months out of the year in Washington’s Cascades, and everything fit on my pack. I’ve bicycled across America, and everything fit in my panniers. I walked across Scotland and, partly thanks to inns, fit everything into a day pack. The Tourist
The only concession to specific disasters is this, if possible, store a major kit outside your house. That way, if disaster means they’ve red-tagged your house, you still have something to work from. Carry that daypack in the car in case you have to abandon it, and keep blankets, food, and water inside in case you have to stay with in. (This one is easy for any ferry commuter who must drive. Long lines teach lessons quickly.) No matter where you are, realize that your safety is most important because you can’t help others if you need help.

If after all of that preparation you never need to use any of it, then you’re at least ready for getting out to enjoy the world, or staying home and enjoying the community you have helped make home.

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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